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Students are rallying behind an unhinged art teacher who threatened to turn Fort Hamilton HS into another Columbine — and are planning a school-wide walkout Friday to protest her arrest.
High-schoolers apparently don’t believe Sabrina Milo, who has taught at the Shore Road school for more than a decade, would threaten their lives, and are willing to risk disciplinary action to prove it.
“Ms. Milo jokes around all the time,” said senior Yasmin Salem. “I know she wasn’t serious when she said it.”
Other students wholeheartedly agreed.
“There are so many teachers in this school who say things like this and they don’t get arrested,” added senior Omar Elsayed, who took Milo’s Core Art class last year. “It’s understandable, teaching is stressful. But if it wasn’t for Ms. Milo, I wouldn’t be graduating high school, so I owe her a lot.”
The walkout is expected to take place on April 8 around noon, exactly one week after police arrested Milo for threatening to smuggle a machine gun under a trench coat — a direct reference to the 1999 Columbine High School massacre — and “settle some scores.”
“It will be Columbine all over again,” she told a handful of co-workers inside the school’s teacher’s lounge, according to court records. Witnesses said Milo was sobbing at the time, leading them to believe she was serious.
Police charged Milo with making terrorist threats. She faces five years in prison if convicted.
Defense attorney Andrew Stoll said the charges against Milo were ridiculous.
“No reasonable person who knows Ms. Milo would have believed she meant what she said,” Stoll said, calling the would-be threats “an exaggerated personal venting.”
Many said Milo appeared on edge in the hours leading up to her arrest. Some even believe that the art teacher was being “bullied” by Principal Jo Ann Chester and her administration before she made her outlandish comments.
One teacher, who wouldn’t give his name, said Milo was under a lot of pressure. Chester, he explained, “goes after a lot of people.”
“It’s hard being a teacher at this school,” he said.
Repeated phone calls to Chester for comment were not returned.
If the students follow through with their walkout, Milo won’t be there to see it: she’s been suspended and is banned from classrooms until the charges against her have been cleared, a Department of Education spokesman said.
Still, Milo was greeted with an outpouring of support from both former and current students when she made her $100,000 bail Sunday.
“I’m not sure I would have been accepted to the art colleges I applied to or received the scholarships and grants that I did without her help and guidance,” said Michelle Farkouh, who graduated Fort Hamilton in 2009. “I’m truly indebted to her and shocked by what is currently happening.”
It didn’t take long for a Facebook page honoring Milo to surface.
“This is insane,” wrote Milo fan Emel Kaya. “It probably was an April Fool’s joke gone too far. I doubt she meant any harm.”
Milo had never been arrested before Friday, but the Department of Education did reassign her last year after a student claimed the art teacher had swatted her hand with a ruler.
Discussing that exchange this week, Milo’s students claimed that it was also blown out of proportion.
— with Thomas Tracy
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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